PETALING JAYA: Analysts have expressed reservations about how Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) might respond to a recent suggestion by Bersatu for an alliance ahead of the next state election.
GRS, Sabah’s current governing coalition of seven parties, rejected Bersatu late last year, citing irreconcilable differences.
Jeniri Amir, a fellow of the Malaysian Council of Professors, said Sabah Bersatu’s exit from the national party last year showed it was already suffering from confidence issues within the broader Sabah political landscape.
He said Bersatu’s entrance into GRS would likely be met by stiff resistance, with doubts about the party’s relevance within the coalition.
“GRS is a solid coalition with a two-thirds majority. There is no justification for it to cooperate with Bersatu, which is a weak party.
“Bersatu is not a local party, but is masquerading as one,” he told FMT.
Bersatu vice-president Ronald Kiandee recently suggested that his party might collaborate with GRS in the upcoming Sabah election, which could take place either next year or in 2025.
GRS has yet to respond to the suggestion.
Jeniri said Bersatu’s openness to join GRS was likely to keep itself relevant and to continue the fight for Sabah’s rights, in line with the precedent set by Sarawak’s governing coalition, GPS.
“There is no point in working with a peninsular party. Furthermore, by accepting Bersatu, they might have to compromise some seats, complicating efforts.
“Not all component parties are willing to work with Bersatu, so who is Hajiji willing to appease, component parties or Sabah Bersatu?” he added, referring to the Sabah chief minister and GRS chairman.
University of Tasmania’s James Chin said it was logical that Bersatu would want to join GRS, given its limited options in Sabah.
He said this was one of two choices open to the party, the other being cooperation with Umno and Warisan.
However, he said working with Umno would be problematic due to Bersatu’s issues with the party in the peninsula.
“The only other group is Pakatan Harapan/GRS. That is the group with which it had relations before, so really, this is a logical choice.
“There is no other group that is capable of a winning formula. It’s either Warisan-Umno or GRS,” he said.
Chin added that there would be pushback from GRS, given the already complicated seat allocation problem.
However, he said, politics is fluid in East Malaysia with no permanent friends or enemies.
“Today you’re a friend, tomorrow you’re the enemy. This is very true of Sabah. There are so many parties in the state, I can’t name them all.
“In Sabah, politics is called ‘ACH’ – anything can happen – so all this talk is the start of a negotiation tactic. They might come up with some sort of formula (to cooperate),” he said.